All's Wyatt on the Western Front

Earp. Excuse me

NT: So, then, why the mystique surrounding guys like Wyatt Earp, Jesse James, and Johnny Ringo?

Earp: Because Americans love our bad guys. Bad guys carry attitude, and that's always entertaining.

NT: I read that Wyatt Earp was a consultant on Hollywood westerns late in life. And that he was also a bodyguard and a boxing referee. I thought cowboys poked cattle or something. Being a bodyguard doesn't sound particularly Old-West-bandito to me.

Wyatt not? Mr. Earp is a straight shooter.
Kim Blake
Wyatt not? Mr. Earp is a straight shooter.

Earp: He was a bodyguard for [William Randolph Hearst's father] George Hearst. And he refereed fights back when it was a respectable sport. He was a buffalo hunter -- there's your Old West job title for you -- and there's not much to do in buffalo camps but play poker and learn to box. Wyatt was a popular referee because he had a tremendous obsession with honesty.

NT: He could have been a journalist! Hey, I heard that Bob Boze Bell's new book about Wyatt Earp "dethrones Tombstone's most famous resident." What does that mean?

Earp: I don't know. I read it cover to cover and didn't find anything objectionable.

NT: Why does Bell have Earp on the cover of this month's True West magazine with a big red X through his face?

Earp: It's all hype. We love to scandalize our heroes. Look at it this way: Ten years after you die, I'm going to write a play about your life. In my research I find out some of the mistakes you made in your 20s --

NT: Like some of my hairstyles?

Earp: Or whatever. And I use those mistakes to tell your whole life story. How would that be?

NT: Well, it would be all right with me, as long as this play wasn't a musical. And if I could be thinner and prettier, that would be good.

Earp: You know, a few years ago, Arizona Highways did an article where they analyzed Wyatt's handwriting. They determined that today he would not have fit well into the corporate structure.

NT: Huzzah.

Earp: The handwriting analysts determined that he'd be an entrepreneur, which is really what he was. They said he would probably coach athletics, and would have participated in the performing arts. And that he'd probably have worked as a life insurance salesman. I spent 35 years at a life insurance company. I've been coaching swimming for 45 years. And I'm an actor.

NT: That's a little creepy.

Earp: A little creepy? Believe me. You have no idea.

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